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Goodbye 2023! What a Memorable Year You’ve Been!

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It's the last day of the year, and I'm going to do a little recapping of what happened to me in my little world during the previous 364 days.

This post is intended to be personal. It's part of a years-long tradition partly for you to know that this website, as well as the man behind it, is as real as the tech information it provides.

In a sentence, 2023 was challenging, but it also left long-lasting, wonderful memories.

If you read my year-end take on 2022, you'd already know how that year ended for us with a significant health scare—our then 13-month-old baby boy was in and out of the ICU a couple of times.

His fragile health continued to haunt us for most of 2023. But we had a great time, too.

Let's start with a high note.

Hawaii Pearl HarborKids by the Temple
Our family 2023 "relief" vacation was absolutely great from the first through the penultimate day.

2023: An eventful year

We started the year by taking a last-minute week-long vacation in late January. It was our oldest daughter's 7th birthday, and most importantly, we wanted a real break from up-to-then a very harsh COVID-19 time, plus the cold weather.

We found a last-minute Airbnb availability in Haleiwa and some good deals on airfares from OAK. And off we went. And we had a great time. Almost entirely a great time.

We took the kids to the Battleship Missouri, visited our favorite Byodo-In Temple temple, swam in the ocean and played with the sand literally every day, and ate lots of local street food—I'd recommend the coconut shrimp.

The week passed by like a dream. During the entire time, we always had the little boy's health in the back of our minds, but as the vacation progressed, things only seemed better. In fact, the little guy had the best time. I even took him and his older siblings multiple snorkel rides in shallow waters, and we saw lots of fish and a few turtles. Lots of laughter and zero tears.

During our last dinner on the island, surrounded by happy and healthy kids, my wife told me (or maybe it was I who told her), "Looks like we made it". We opened a nice bottle of wine to celebrate, and I finished it before going to sleep at 1 am, thinking, "Yeah, we made it! And we totally deserved it."

There was no rush. We didn't have to check out of the place until 11 am, and our flight back home was at 1 pm. The airport is just an hour away.

It was another last-minute thing

Alas! We celebrated too early. At 4 am that night, possibly right in the middle of my REM cycle, my wife woke me up. It happened again!

Out of the blue, the little boy struggled to breathe. The nebulizer and inhalers we brought along didn't help. We had no choice but to take him to the ER—for the third time within four months.

The closest hospital was in Honolulu, over an hour away. We got up, packed the rental car, moved the sleepy big kids to the back seats, and drove to the Kapiʻolani Medical Center.

It was the most brutal hour-long drive. I was so tired and sleepy that my eyes were blurry. To make matters worse, upon getting up, I grabbed my glasses in a hurry and smeared the lenses with my fingers. But we managed to get there at around 5:30 am.

As my wife and the little boy were rushed to the ER, I was left with a dilemma: the facility wouldn't allow the other two kids to stay by themselves in the waiting room, and I couldn't leave them in the car in the parking lot, and there were a couple of things my wife needed from the vehicle. That's not to mention the kids themselves were really tired. It was chaotic.

Fortunately, at one point, a nurse offered to watch the kids for a few minutes so I could get a couple of things done, including figuring out the logistics of what to do next.

The first trip to the ER of 2023
Here is the little guy on his first trip to the ER of 2023 when I said goodbye before leaving him and his mom on the island for a couple of more days. We had no choice.

Long story short, per my wife's suggestion, I ended up flying home with the two big kids later that day as scheduled, leaving her and the little boy behind. There was no other option considering the situation. It was two of us vs. three of them, none could be left alone, and we had no friends around.

It was the saddest flight home for us three, and the next couple of days were challenging for everyone, to say the least. But we made it through.

A couple of weeks after returning home from Hawaii, we had to take the little boy to the ER for the fourth time due to the same out-of-the-blue severe breathing issue.

It was "easier" since we're on the home turf, and this time around, he didn't have to stay overnight. The doctor said he was getting better and that, chances are, by the time he turned two years old, he would grow out of it. (I wanted to believe so, anyway.)

His birthday is in November. And the year proved to be long. Stuff kept happening.

A car accident and a strange break-in experience

In mid-March, after dropping off the big kids at the school, on the way back with the little guy in the backseat, my wife got into an accident.

A Ford F150 truck, making a hasty left turn, crashed into her car and pinned it against a parked car. It took a while, with the help of the truck driver and pedestrians, before they could get out. Thank goodness everyone walked away, but the car—her beloved Subaru Outback—was totaled. (The truck only had a few minor scratches on its front tires and bumper.)

The event was so scary it was followed by lots of tears and many sleepless nights.

And then it was my turn. On a Saturday in mid-July, I was on the way home from a job and, quite stupidly, left my work laptop in the trunk. Initially, I thought I'd go straight home but ended up making a quick five-minute stop to grab some groceries per my wife's request. It was a few minutes too long.

I left the store to find my car broken into—they smashed the rear window—and the laptop was gone. The whole thing took less than 30 seconds, including the time for the guy to inspect the trunk through the tinted glass, as you can see in the video below.

But the story didn't end there.

The following Monday, I took the car to the body shop assigned by the insurance company for the adjuster to look at it. As she was walking around my car to inspect the damage and take pictures, she looked across the street and froze there for a long 15 or so seconds, as though she had some sort of medical emergency. As I was about to call 911, she raised her hand, pointing to a street corner half a block away, and said, "My car...".

As it turned out, her car, which she had parked there a couple of hours ago, had been stolen. "It was there just a few minutes ago. I have to pick up my kids later," she said in a shaky voice.

I didn't know how to feel. I was there expecting sympathy and help for my misfortune. Instead, I realized she was in a much worse situation. "I hope you have insurance," I said and gave her a hug. She did.

Our first trip to Vietnam

During the summer break, we decided to go to Vietnam. (Originally, I'm from a village in the North, about 75 miles from Hanoi.)

Hanoi trafficRiding in hanoi
In mid-2023, we had a great time riding a scooter around Hanoi.

Due to the pandemic, it was our first international trip in six years, and it would be my two boys' first trip to the country. Among other things, I wanted to show them the village where I grew up.

We landed in Hanoi mid-day, right in the middle of summer during the hottest week in years, with triple-digit temperatures and humidity over 90%.

It was so hot I started to sweat the moment I got out of the airplane and entered the jet bridge, and I didn't stop perspiring until we got to our air-conditioned rental apartment in the middle of the modern part of Hanoi.

We moved in and out quite a bit during our stay, and the acute change between the extreme heat outside and the AC indoor environment had some effects on the olfactory system. Everyone was sneezing a bit, including the little guy.

One night, traumatized by past experiences, my wife decided to use the nebulizer on him "just to be sure". Unfortunately, she plugged the machine—made for the North American market, which uses 110V current—into a 240V outlet. It caught fire immediately and melted before the breaker kicked in. The smell of burnt plastic caused everyone to feel a little sick.

The next day, we took the kid to the hospital in Hanoi for a checkup, and he was fine.

Bi Hoi Hanoi CanBia Hoi in a glass
Bia Hơi is not just a drink. It's part of Hanoi culture, and you have to be there to appreciate it, preferably with boiled peanuts. It's a very light draft beer served in an iconic rustic tumbler made from recycled glass called cốc vại, that's remained the same since 1976. Due to the pandemic and the new draconian zero-tolerant law against drink-and-drive in Vietnam, for the past few years, Bia Hơi has also been available in cans, called Bia Hơi Hà Nội—not to be confused with Beer Hà Nội, which is a different lager brand. I brought some home to share with friends. The flavor is there, but the experience is far inferior to when enjoyed fresh at one of those Bia Hơi corners in Hanoi.

But the heat had its rewards. It was the best time to enjoy Bia Hơi, which I did almost daily. Often with friends and a few times alone. There's nothing better than sweating all day and getting replenished with a couple of refreshing glasses. And I have to admit, there was something romantic about sitting there alone with the beer itself.

And, of course, nothing beats the street food of Hanoi. Vietnam is the only country in the world I've been to where food is never an issue. There are always so many options, and most, if not all, of them are amazing.

Food in DanangBun Oc Hanoi
Vietnamese food is second to none.

Still, after six years and the pandemic, the country has changed so much. In more ways than one, it was no longer the Vietnam I knew.

The day we went back to my birth village, I got lost. Literally, all the landmarks I knew had gone, replaced by paved roads, buildings, factories, modern homes, and restaurants. The only thing left was the temple at one end of the village. Without it, I wouldn't have known where I was.

There were no paddy fields or farm animals I could see. Not even a buffalo or a pig. So much for showing my kids how life used to be.

But we had a great time. After a week, I was brave enough to even take the kids out for scooter rides in the busy streets of Hanoi, where you generally move around using feelings and intuition rather than following traffic laws.

Besides Hanoi, we managed to go to Halong Bay and visit Danang. Both were incredible. If you ever go to Vietnam, I'd recommend Halong Bay and the stretch in the middle of the country from Hue to Nha Trang. Before that, maybe give Hanoi for a day or two for the Bia Hoi.

Kids in Hanlong Bay CruiseBa Na Hills
A cruise on Halong Bay and a trip to Ba Na Hills (Danang) should be on the list of anyone traveling to Vietnam.

2023: Pink eye and the happy ending

The months went by, and the boy's 2nd birthday fast approached, all without another ER trip. It seemed the doctor was right.

But a week before his actual birthday in mid-November, he caught pink eye from his older siblings (who got them from their schoolmates), which lasted for 10 days. And when he was done with it, like a mean prank, it was my turn. I got it on Thanksgiving morning.

And then, after that, collectively, all of us were sick. Food allergies, pink eye, common cold, and whatnot. It was looking like we'd be unhealthy for the rest of the year.

Nikko turns 2 while having pink eyeDong Ngo with Pink Eye
2023: Our little guy celebrated his 2nd birthday while having pink eye, which he gave to me on Thanksgiving.
I took the selfie at Whole Foods while getting Thanksgiving dinner for myself and texted it to friends, explaining why I wouldn't be able to make it to our planned gathering. But they insisted I should join them anyway, which I did, and thankfully, I managed not to give the disease to anyone! Or maybe they already had it before me.

But three days before Christmas, like a miracle, all of us got over the plague. For the first time in months, we felt the way we did when we landed in Hawaii in January, just in time for the family Christmas photo, as you'll see below.

As I'm typing these last sentences of the year, which is about to end happily, I realize that it's the struggles that make life wonderful. It's about picking the battle we can manage. And with hard work, lots of love, and some luck, we can handle a lot.

I'm looking forward to what 2024 will bring.

With that,

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2024 bring us love, peace, and the type of adventure that makes us stronger!

And thank you for your support! Your donations, subscriptions, and, most importantly, your appreciation of honest, factual information have been a massive encouragement for me to keep this website going. And it will get better without ever losing the 100% no-nonsense promise. That is a promise.

Christmas
Goodbye 2023, and Happy New Year 2024, Everyone!

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20 thoughts on “Goodbye 2023! What a Memorable Year You’ve Been!”

  1. What a beautifully written piece! Thanks for sharing! You should write more about food and travel, Dong! Glad you all persevered! Happy New Year to you and the rest of the fam.

    Reply
  2. I hope that 2024 finds the whole family healthy, and as always, a great big thank you for all the reviews and information you provided in 2023. As a follower from CNET days, I’m glad I found you on the web. Have a very Happy New Year!

    Reply
  3. Wonderful article and I am glad your family is now on the path to long lasting health.

    Thank you for the articles you have on the site, it gave me the information to install and set up a Synology mesh network in my home. It might be a Wi-Fi 5 network, but it works really well and suits my needs. Also, it was inexpensive costing me under $250 for the hardware. I had the Cat5E backhaul already in place to make the mesh rock solid.

    Reply
  4. 2024… hope it brings what we each need most of all…
    HAPPY NEW YEAR.

    Dong, your sharing the trials & tribulations of 2023 reminds me how important it is to adopt a positive perspective as we face 2024.
    A glass half-full is certainly so much more encouraging than a glass half-empty.

    Reply
  5. Wow – you had quite a year. I am so glad things seem to have settled down. You have a beautiful family. Best wishes to all of you in the new year.

    Reply
    • Hi Dong,
      I enjoyed reading your story and am glad it was a happy ending (except for the car and laptop). The most important part is your family is intact and looks great! Thanks for sharing a part of your life and your knowledge of Tech. I hope you and your family have a prosperous New Year!

      Reply
  6. I’m very glad everyone is continuing to persevere, Dong! Much love and hugs from us to all of you. My wife could use a, honestly, much less eventful year health-wise, as well, and I’m confident she will.

    Reply

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